by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy StrengthCoachOnline.com)

Astute readers of MMAWeekly may recognize the name Mike Dolce. It seems just about every time a Team Quest member is interviewed, Mike’s name comes up, and for good reason.

Since joining Team Quest in early 2004, Dolce has helped many of the team’s fighters become more complete athletes due to his strength and conditioning coaching.

Not only is Mike an accomplished coach, but he’s also been fighting this entire time in the amateur ranks and now is ready to make his professional debut on November 17th in Atlantic City as part of Ring of Combat’s 8-man middleweight tournament.

Recently Dolce took time out of his busy training schedule for both his fighters and himself, as well as his varied duties at Team Quest’s Gresham, Oregon facilities to speak to MMAWeekly about stepping up into the pro ranks and just what strength and conditioning can do for the sport of MMA.

MMAWeekly: First off Mike, you had an extensive amateur career before deciding to turn pro. How would you say that experience has helped you?

Mike Dolce: First, going through the amateur ranks in the Northwest is basically the same as competing as a professional in other parts of the country. I moved out here to be with Team Quest because they’re the number one team in the world, but they’re also located in the hotbed of MMA in the US. So my amateur career here was mixed with very, very tough competition and it prepared me fully to step into the pro ranks on November 17th in Atlantic City.

MMAWeekly: How do you feel now that you’re finally turning pro?

Mike Dolce: I feel great, I’m so excited…I’ve been chomping at the bit to turn pro. I’ve just been waiting and fallowing the direction of my coaches Robert Follis and Matt Lindland and just doing every single thing that they’ve needed [me to do] in order to step forward. So with their blessing I’m ready to go, I just love to compete and I’m happy to get it on.

MMAWeekly: Interestingly your first experience as a pro will be as part of a multi-show 185lb tournament, not many people nowadays debut in that type of format. How did it come about?

Mike Dolce: Actually I brought this to my management. I saw that Lou Negley was running the Ring of Combat tournament in Atlantic City, which is about one hour from my hometown and what better way to make my pro debut than in front of my friends and family in my home state in an 8-man middleweight tournament. So I’m going to go out there with a lot of pressure on my back and I’m going to step out and make a name for myself…I wouldn’t want it any other way.

MMAWeekly: Fighting in basically your hometown can present some challenges I imagine, how are you going to be able to avoid the pitfalls that can sometimes come from that?

Mike Dolce: Everybody knows that I’m a pretty serious guy. I love my friends, love my family, but until my fight is over I don’t know anybody, I have no concern, no worries. I’m a pretty stoic individual when it comes to business, and this sport is my business…so I’m going to be hold up in a hotel room when I fly into town, make my weight, beat the hell out of somebody and then it’s going to be time for mom’s meatloaf [laughs].

MMAWeekly: How has working with Team Quest helped develop you as a fighter over the last couple years?

Mike Dolce: Put it this way, every single day when I walk into practice there’s Matt Lindland, Chael Sonnen, Nate Quarry, Chris Wilson, Ed Herman, Chris Leben, Devin Cole, Ian Loveland, Ryan Schultz, the names go on and on…Dan Henderson is there a lot too. I have the best team in the world, especially at 185lbs.

We have more of the top 185lb fighters than anybody else around. We have some of the baddest men on the planet showing up five days a week in the very same practice room I’m in. I’ve taken my lumps for the last year and a half by these guys and I’m at the point now where I’m delivering some lumps back…so I feel fully prepared and ready to go.

MMAWeekly: Having said that, what can people expect to see from you in New Jersey on November 17th?

Mike Dolce: People are going to see back in New Jersey what the fans in Portland have come to expect from me…just aggressive determination. I’m an extremely physically talented athlete – not through genetics – but through hard work. I have busted my ass in the gym the last 20 years of my life getting me ready to the point where I can turn pro as a fighter, so I’m explosive, angry, composed and hungry.

There is no stopping me, I will just move forward and I’m looking forward to hurt people in a very competitive way. I wish no ill-will on any of my opponents, but when I step in that ring I’m not Mike Dolce anymore, I’m a fighter in there to do my job and that’s to get out of that ring while leaving the other guy laying on the ground…and that’s what I’m going to do.

MMAWeekly: Prior to being an active fighter you were a strength and conditioning coach and continue that work to this day with Team Quest. Tell us about that.

Mike Dolce: I’ve been a professional strength and conditioning coach actively for the last six years and everything I’ve done I’ve learned in the trenches, unlike a lot of other people out there that just theorize based on written thesis and such. I’m in the mix with some of the best athletes around and unlike some other strength coaches, I also actively compete as a fighter, so I’m very intimate to the specific demands placed on these athletes, which makes what I do so much more developed than a lot of what’s going on in the MMA world right now.

I have a fight coming up right now so I have the best research material, where I know specifically what works and what doesn’t. I present all this information on my website, StrengthCoachOnline.com, I don’t sell anything on there right now, I just use it as a means for the public to watch what my athletes and I are doing and to fallow our career paths and what we are up to.

MMAWeekly: Other sports such as football, baseball and basketball have long employed strength and conditioning coaches for their players. This is something that’s still relatively untapped here in MMA. Tell us what bringing on a full-time strength and conditioning coach can do for the athletes in our sport?

Mike Dolce: That’s a great question actually. Everybody at this point in MMA is cross-trained to the point that we’re no longer specific discipline athletes; we’re all MMA athletes now. So at this point the strength and conditioning is going to be standout attribute that separates the best from the rest. We’re all training every discipline at this point, but the lacking factor seems to be guys’ conditioning, flexibility, nutrition and endurance.

You see some guys that are the best fighters in the world, but their conditioning program, strength, nutrition, and flexibility needs to be corrected/updated or brought up to the same level that their physical attributes would mandate. With a little tweak to strength and conditioning work, I think guys would run right through their opponents no problem, whether it is first round or the fifth round. That’s where I believe the sport is going, especially with me and the guys I work with on my team.

MMAWeekly: Great conversation Mike, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule for us. Is there anything you’d like to say as we close out the interview?

Mike Dolce: First thing of course is that I have to thank my wife Brandy and my family for loving me and supporting me in this crazy move [to Portland]. I left a high paying white collar job to come out here and get blasted in the face every day…so I have to thank them. And then I’d like to thank my team…my coaches Robert Follis and Matt Lindland for taking the time to invest in me and see my potential…my teammates, everybody at Team Quest, they are all very important to my development as an athlete…and Jun Hanawa, one of my greatest friends and supporters.

Thanks of course to everybody in the Pacific Northwest, back in Jersey, all the fans that come out…I get tons of email now and everywhere I go I feel like a celebrity – even though I’m just an average Joe – because people recognize me and respect my fighting style and what I do. That means so much, that’s what motivates me to move forward every day. And of course I’ve got to plug the website, StrengthCoachOnline.com.

For every fan that hears the name Mike Dolce better come and see every single one of my fights because it’s going to be an action-packed explosion. I enter that ring looking to finish every single person I meet. If I get finished as a part of that, God bless them, but I doubt it’s going to happen. I’m coming hard, heavy and I keep coming…that’s excitement right there…so come to the fights, I’m looking to put on a show.